Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sympathy for the devil ...

Seeing the Guy Who Traded Gretzky up on fraud charges touches on the validity of ultimate charity.

The erstwhile Peter Puck has spent the last 30 years passing the buck, usually leaving someone else to do the clean-up — like the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation had to do in the 1980s when it forked out $359 million after Fidelity Trust Co. went under (Brent Jang,, Dec. 23, 2008), or when the Alberta government spent more than $200 million during the 1990s on a bailout for his meat-packing company. That's the ugly side of his self-styled, free-wheeling entrepreneurship. Another truth is that it was capitalists such as Pocklington, Ben Hatskin in Winnipeg, Marcel Aubut in Quebec and Howard Baldwin in Hartford who, as the owners of the World Hockey Association teams which came into the NHL in 1979, helped make over a staid sport, for a time. There's forgiveness, we're just arguing how small a degree.

What Peter Pocklington is accused of doing — hiding assets during a bankruptcy proceeding. It is relatively penny-ante, compared to say, Bernie Madoff, but keep in mind that such malfeasance don't push people's buttons like violent crime.

The kicker, though, is that Pocklington's financial pinch was reported exhaustively by The Globe & Mail 10 weeks ago. It opened on with a recollection of the day last July when a burned former business partner named Naomi Balcombe and three U.S. marshals seized several of his assets, leaving his condo "as bare as Whoville in the wake of the Grinch." Thing is, few sports junkies, present company included, took much notice. It was two days before Christmas and the public appetite for seeing the mighty having fallen probably wasn't what it is today.

Today is really an epilogue. It sort of speaks to the amusing side of this, that it's actually hard to put down feelings of sympathy toward Peter Puck. He's 67 years old, he might end up doing hard time and he's reaped the whirlwind of the greed-is-good mantra that's permeated our society for the past three decades. Now we're in a fix and he's in a worse one. It looks good on him, but don't forget how we, by our actions, turned a blind eye to such behaviour for so long. Ultimately, to hell with him, it's okay to enjoy seeing him taken down. It's part of a great cleansing.

Ex-Oilers owner Pocklington charged with fraud (Canwest News Service)
Peter Puck's last stand (Brent Jang, Globe & Mail Report on Business, Dec. 23, 2008)

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